Gloucester ran in four tries to win the west country derby clash and finish at the top of the Guinness Premiership while Bristol, who led the table until mid February, had to make do with third spot.
Gloucester will host Saracens in their semi-final while Bristol, who many predicted at the start of the season would be relegated, will face Premiership runners-up Leicester at Welford Road where they lost 43-15 to the Tigers just before Christmas.
Both sides welcomed back two inspirational figures with centre James Simpson-Daniel and flanker Andy Hazell in the Gloucester starting line-up while Bristol had Shaun Perry at scrum half and David Lemi on the left wing.
The game was staged at Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City, as Gloucester’s Kingsholm is being redeveloped but Bristol, playing their second game in five days at the ground, were in the away dressing room.
Over 13,000 Gloucester supporters made the short trip down the M5 to create a home atmosphere for the match where more than local pride was at stake in the final league game of the season.
Gloucester suffered an early setback when number eight James Forrester, a contender for England’s summer tour to South Africa, twisted his right knee when attempting a break by centre Sam Cox.
Play was held up for five minutes while Forrester received treatment, including oxygen, before being carried off on a stretcher.
He was replaced by former Gloucester skipper Jake Boer.
Gloucester dominated the first quarter and were rewarded for their pressure through two 35-metre penalties from full back Willie Walker before Bristol pulled one back.
Fly-half David Hill neatly slotted his 45 metre kick from the left touchline cleanly between the uprights only for Walker to kick his third penalty again from in front of the posts.
Bristol looked to be suffering from battle fatigue at times but that did not excuse the handling errors from those who did not feature in the midweek victory over Leicester.
Gloucester stretched their lead to 14-3 when scrum half Peter Richards fed Ryan Lamb.
The fly-half delayed his pass to Walker who ran in unopposed but he was off target with the conversion.
Bristol countered immediately when Lemi chipped ahead and then collected before streaking down the left touchline to score in the corner.
Hill failed to add the extras but Gloucester went into the break 21-8 ahead when number eight Andrew Blowers fumbled a poor pass from wing Lee Robinson.
Centre Anthony Allen collected and got the ball away to left wing Mark Foster to score Gloucester’s second try which Walker duly converted.
Hill missed an early opportunity in the second half to reduce the arrears with a 40-metre penalty from in front of the posts but the kick was wide and low.
Bristol’s defence was exposed five minutes into the half when Boer, who is leaving Gloucester at the end of the season, picked up at the back of a scrum and cruised to the line. Walker converted.
When Allen failed to cleanly take a pass from Lamb, Bristol’s Roy Winters got his hand on the ball before giving it out to centre Brian Lima for Bristol’s second try.
But Gloucester quickly restored the advantage as Allen linked up with Richards to put Hazell in for their bonus point try which Walker converted.